Mango trees grow in tropical or subtropical climates and produce a delicious fruit, mainly during the summer, depending on the tree's variety. Distantly related to the cashew, pistachio and poison oak, the mango, or Mangifera indica, is native to Burma (Myanmar) and eastern India. Humans introduced this fruit and the lovely, spreading tree on which it grows to Malay, eastern Asia and eastern Africa. In 1880 mango trees were introduced to southern California.
If you live in an area that receives full sun and does not get winter frost, you might be able to grow a mango tree. Depending on the variety of mango, the tree can reach up to 90 feet, or less in areas outside of the tropics. Most deep, well-drained soils will support a mango tree, but they do not like heavy, wet soils. A soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5 is best. Fertilize your mango regularly with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and periodically add iron.
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Mango trees need fertilizer in order to produce a good fruit yield and to ensure the tree's health. Both chemical fertilizers and organic forms such as compost are used in commercial production of mangoes. When you first plant a tree, mix a super phosphate fertilizer (0-45-0) with the soil to encourage strong root growth. When the tree is larger, apply 1 to 2 lbs. of nitrogen (10-20-20) the first year and then 1.5 to 3 pounds of the same fertilizer during its second and third years, divided into three or four applications. Spread fertilizer around the tree's drip line and water thoroughly afterward.
Using organic materials such as compost can help your soil retain nutrients, which benefits the plants around which you use it. In a 2-year study conducted with the "Keitt" mango in the Dominican Republic in 2000 and 2001, it was concluded that on trees treated with compost, 17 to 24 percent more fruit occurred than on trees that were not given compost. In the same study, it was learned that combining compost with chemical fertilizer resulted in 19 percent more fruit.
Fish Emulsion and Other Micronutrients
Fish emulsion is a liquid natural fertilizer that typically contains a nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium ratio of 5-3-3. In Phoenix, Arizona, field trials found that if you apply fish emulsion every 2 weeks during hot weather your mango tree will experience steady growth. It's good practice to also apply chelated micronutrients such as iron on a periodic basis. Chemical fertilizers can burn young trees, so fish emulsion is a good choice, especially for a tree's first year or two of life.
Hints and Tips
Young trees can easily get burned from chemical nitrogen fertilizers, so organic fertilizers are recommended. If you follow a regimen similar to that for fertilizing citrus trees, your mango should do well. If your soil is sandy, fertilize more frequently than for soils that are clay or loam. Fallen mango leaves make a good food for compost worms that produce worm castings, a form of organic fertilizer. You can later use these castings by diluting them with water and applying it to your mango tree.